April 17 – Thomas Kitchell
Thomas Kitchell, star thrower on the Wake Forest track & field team, sat down with Jack McKenney on our OGB Weekly Sports Podcast. The sophomore was named to the All-ACC First team for both the indoor and outdoor seasons after numerous record-breaking performances throughout 2022.
This Apr. 17 interview has been transcribed and edited for clarity and AP style. Listen to the full episode here and don’t forget to subscribe to the Old Gold & In Your Ears channel found on all podcasting platforms.
Jack McKenney: Hello everybody and welcome back to the Old Gold & Black Weekly Sports Podcast. I’m Jack McKenney here and today we have Thomas Kitchell as a guest on the show. Very excited to have my man on the show. Thomas, thanks for coming on man.
Thomas Kitchell: Thank you for having me.
JM: So we got a few questions for you here. Let’s start. You do the discus throw, the hammer throw and the weight throw. Tell me a little bit more about that for our non-casual sports fans, you know what that is. Also, I’m really interested to hear how you went about getting recruited and stuff like that.
TK: All these events, the throwing events are just, you know, the field part of track and field. So obviously, I’m not I’m not running around laps and that type of stuff. I got started when I think I was in fifth grade. My dad did track in high school, so he wanted me to do it. I really didn’t do it that much, I just did it for fun in our little church league. My sister was on the high school team, so I just figured I’d follow in their footsteps. I end up doing it and my first year doing it, I did this summer Junior Olympics thing. And I made it to Nationals, which is actually in Greensboro. This was in fifth grade.
I was just throwing the discus at that point. I didn’t know anything else. I think I threw the shot put, but I didn’t like the shot put. I only liked the discus, so I did that for a few years and kept on doing that. I did the Junior Olympics stuff every summer and I would go down — that’s how I learned about the Greensboro, Winston-Salem area was traveling down here a lot. I actually went to Texas, I think when I was like sixth grade, so that was cool. It was my first time just going down there. Once I got to the eighth grade, I started to throw the shot put more, and I picked up the hammer for the first time. There was a Division-II coach from home, his name’s Jim Morrison, he got me to pick up the hammer and just play around with it. So that’s when I started doing that.
And then once I got into high school — I never fully did track — I always played football and basketball. I thought my future was either one of those two. I was big, I was tall, skinnier than now. I was a big kid, but not too big yet. But I got cut from the freshman basketball team because I was slow. I was like, “you know what, I’ll just stick to track.” So I took that way more seriously and next thing you know, I got a really good coach and I just started reaching out to schools. I wasn’t too good in my junior year of high school. I was good enough to maybe go D-II or small D-I. I was really interested in going to the academies like West Point or Navy but that kind of all fell through. Then my junior spring, I took off. I won states and I reached out to the coach here. He got back to me and then I came here for a visit. I came to a national meet my junior year in Greensboro again and then came here for a little unofficial visit. That was nice. I really liked it. And then the coach came to my house in July and offered me. I looked at other schools, but I really didn’t give anyone else a chance because I liked Wake Forest a lot. I just fell in love when I came on campus, so I figured this was the place to be.
JM: That’s really great to hear that he came to your house, because I know Coach Clawson does that for a lot of the football players. I’m sure that was pretty special to you, not only you but your parents also. It’s really cool seeing someone put in that effort to recruit you.
So tell me a little bit more about the team. Who are some of your really close friends and how does that camaraderie make you guys better?
TK: It’s actually crazy. My freshman year of high school, I came down to a meet in North Carolina where I met Mason Ellis, who was my roommate last year. I met him and he lives in Winston Salem, he went to West Forsyth, he was state champion and I got to know him. And ever since sophomore year, we’ve been best friends.
TK: I met him in high school and all the schools we got recruited by, it was a package deal. Like we were both seriously thinking about going to South Carolina. The coach is legit and he was a cool guy. I actually canceled his home visit to my house because I liked Wake Forest that much. He was going to come a week later and I was like, “just don’t come.”
Mason’s definitely my best friend. My two other good friends here, Jacob Goldberg, he’s also a thrower and Paris Husic, he’s a decathlete. They’re also two of my best friends and with them, I just feel like I wouldn’t be pushed as hard. Mason’s my training partner. We lived together, we throw together every day, and he pushes me. When I came in, I felt like I was super weak compared to this kid, like he was deadlifting 700 pounds in high school. I mean I was strong in high school, but I was nowhere near as strong as him. So with his help, my lifting, everything, the routine, my numbers went up in the weight room, everything just became so much better when I began training with him. Just having Jacob and Paris there, they’re just two kids that boost my morale and they’re very supportive. Our team as a whole, I have good leaders like our captain Andrew White. He’s a great leader, we’re both very good in the discus he’s like a partner in crime kind of. It’s fun to have guys that are as good as me to compete with.
When I came into this program, I was kind of promised that we were going to change the way this program was going and that we were going to make it a lot better. Kind of like a throws university, I think that’s what they called it, throws dominant. I think we’ve definitely made that change. When I came here, there were only two boy throwers. One was Elijah Shalaway, a javelin thrower, and then our captain Andrew white. It was just them two and now we have Connor Mathis, who’s extremely good discus, Mason, Jacob, me, Jack Philkar, another hammer thrower, Jason Wagner. They had two kids and now we have eight or nine. Just to have that and watch the program build? It’s awesome.
JM: Yeah that’s great. So I don’t want to jump ahead too far here, but have the Olympics ever crossed your mind? I think they probably have. How do you prepare for something like that and deal with it kind of in the back of your mind?
TK: Yeah. Coming into college, and freshman year, I was like, “oh, that’s the goal.” When I committed here, the coach I was talking to, the coach who recruited me, Coach Post, my main question for him was, “are you going to get me to the Olympics?” And he said, “that’s the goal.” So, I came here.
During freshman year, I’m not saying I had a big head, not like a big ego or anything, but I had goals that were kind of far reached. I wasn’t going to get to it. But I actually did very well as a freshman, I went to regionals, I was the youngest kid there. I was just a few spots out of making nationals. I stayed in Winston-Salem all last summer to train and get healthy and work on functional stuff, making sure my body is okay. Because it’s hard being 320 pounds and doing this sport all the time, it’s hard to do that. So I stayed here in the summer and I think that’s when I realized that what I want to do is go to the Olympics. This past year has really shown me, ACCs in the shot put, I took second. And I threw, I think I threw 19.45 meters, which is like 63 feet, something like that. Which was like, top 20 in the nation. And I was the youngest kid out of those guys,
JM: That’s really encouraging.
TK: Being 19 and doing that, that feels good. I was 60th in the world this indoor season. To have that behind me, it motivates me and shows me that I know I can do it. So does my high school coach. I used to drive two hours every Sunday to Harrisburg to see him. He coached two guys, Joe Kovacs and Ryan Whiting, they’re both Olympians and World Champions and both from where I live in Pennsylvania. So if you compare me to their college success, I’ve kind of followed down their path. And it kind of feels good to know that. If I’m doing what they were doing and they did that, you know, I have a good future. So I just have to keep on working hard and just keep my hopes high.
JM: You mentioned your high school coach, he coached two Olympians. Do you fall on him for advice at times? Because that’s a very encouraging thing to know that he coached elite talent like that.
TK: During my sophomore year of high school, I started seeing this guy and it was because I went to that D-II coach I was talking about earlier, Jim Morrison. I went to one of his open meets, and he had an athlete there that was getting coached by this guy named Glenn Thompson. As the athlete was leaving to go to South Dakota he was like “I can give you my time slot, you can go train with him on Sunday.” So I was like, alright, so I went out there that Sunday. And for like five weeks straight, I just like, did not listen to him. I was not doing any of the work he wanted me to do and I went home. So like the fifth time I went, it was kind of expensive for my parents, who were spending gas money. It was expensive to see him. So he looked me in the eyes. And he was like, I’m not going to say everything he said because It’s kind of foul he basically told me to quit wasting my time and wasting my parents’ money. If you don’t come back next week, then I don’t want you to come back here. So ever since then. I’ve never worked harder in my life. Like I’ve worked like every single week I’d go home and do everything I had to do. Came back every week i was better and better and better. To the point where like when I was a senior that Glenn has been like, he’s like another father figure to me like he’s been so special. The only reason why I’m here today is because of him, he’s that good of a coach. He took like what I was like I wasn’t that good when I was a freshman or sophomore. And he took me in and like a year later I became a state champion. I mean, so my sophomore year I’d even go to states with discus junior year I won the states in discus and took second in the shot put So that’s, you know, I wouldn’t be here. So and you also call him like once in a while just to see like how he’s doing and just tell him how I’m doing and he will try not to like interfere with like my coaches philosophy because a good coach in high school will pass on their athletes, to their college coach and let the college coach, take full control and they can focus
JM: That’s a good point.
TK: He’s just super supportive and without him, this wouldn’t be happening.
JM: So I’m going to I’m going to switch the tune a little bit. I want to hear — I love asking this question, I ask it to everybody we interview. Where is your favorite off-campus place for food? Mine personally is Bagel Station. I don’t know if you’ve been there.
TK: Oh yeah, Bagel Station is gas.
JM: Pork roll, egg and cheese. Oh man. Oh my god.
TK: Oh yeah.
JM: On an everything bagel, it’s awesome. What would you say?
TK: That might be it. Hold on let me think
JM: Because we’ve never had someone say Bagel Station as well.
TK: No, Bagel Station is good. Now that you’ve said that it has got me thinking because there’s nothing else like the north down here.
JM: No, there’s not.
TK: That s the closest we’re going to get up north.
JM: (Laughing) That is the closest way we can get up north.
TK: Now that you have said that honestly, it might be bagel station. Either bagel station or what else is good whats downtown? That’s good. Oh, I guess. Cugino Forno is good. Those are the top two.
JM: We got the same vision for sure. Awesome pizza. Well, hey man, really appreciate you coming on. Absolutely. Pleasure. Really appreciate it.